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Frustration with Police Simmers, as Relatives Wait for Information on Red Arrow Park Shooting

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UWM professor Stan Stojkovic explains the process of investigating a potential act of wrongdoing by a police officer

The family of an unarmed black man killed by a Milwaukee police officer, is calling for the results of an investigation.

Dontre Hamilton was in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee in April, when police say he seized a police officer’s baton and beat the officer with it. The officer fired multiple shots, killing Hamilton.

The officer’s name has not been released to the public, nor have the results of a state probe into the incident. Family members and others are frustrated, and have held a number of rallies. Last week, they marched on a meeting of the city’s Fire and Police Commission, demanding answers.

The Rev. Willie Brisco is president of Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH). He says the African American community has broad concerns about how police treat black residents.

“One thing that we can never forget and never put on the back burner is race. There’s this… fear of black men, especially young black men, that (is) placed in the minds of society. It just permeates. It’s in the mind and psyche of a lot of individuals who are supposed to serve and protect and be nonbiased, but it seems to just not go away,” Brisco says.

Brisco says anger among African Americans, about how they are treated by police, is boiling up in cities around the country, including Milwaukee. He says the potential exists in many cities for an eruption of protests – like those that occurred last month in Ferguson, MO, after a white officer shot an unarmed black teen. Brisco says what’s prevented something like that from happening in Milwaukee is that “you have several groups acting as pressure valves,” by actively trying to solve serious problems in the community.

For instance, Brisco says, there’s MICAH’s work, along with that of other faith groups statewide, to look for ways to reduce the state’s high rate of black male incarceration. In addition, Brisco points to driver’s license recovery programs and a campaign to create more transitional jobs. “I think when you look at those things and see how many groups that are working on them, I think it adds to some of the hope still in this community, and it cuts down on some of the hopelessness,” Brisco says.

Stan Stojkovic is a UW-Milwaukee criminal justice professor and dean of the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. He says many times an incident, such as a shooting death by police, can fan the flames of discontent about other concerns, such as race relations, segregation issues, employment issues and poverty.

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